I have been terribly busy for the entire year of 2021. As most of you know, a few months before COVID hit the United States, I opened a literary cafe named The Blue Heron Cafe. With my love for coffee, and the desire to have an artistic venue for artists, poets, musicians, and the like to gather, it was an instant success. My wife Terri came in each morning to bake scones and desserts from scratch, as well as make the homemade soups I served with the crafted sandwiches I served. Everything from fresh deli meats and cheeses, nothing skimped on.
Unfortunately, the COVID restrictions hit us hard. I was first forced to close, not only my cafe but the entire antique mall, for three months. We took a huge financial hit, but I resisted the government payouts for many reasons, both economical as well as personal. During the three months we were closed, the local health department demanded the yearly licensing fee for my cafe. I asked if they would wait until I could open, but they simply threatened to cancel my license and make me pay and go through the entire licensing process again if I refused to pay while I was closed.
It is funny, I thought if you paid for a service you were entitled to that service. Anyway, I paid. A few weeks later they said I could once again open. Much to my delight, I reopened my antique mall and cafe and immediately ran out to purchase $900 worth of food supplies to return to work. We operated approximately 10 days before being told they had made an error, and the cafe had to close again.
A couple more weeks passed, but at least we had the antique mall opened and some income. We were once again told we could reopen. This time I only purchased a few hundred dollars of supplies out of fear of being closed again, and my fear was correct. We were once again told to close. A few weeks later they allowed us to reopen, but by this time I had already lost so much money, it was not looking good.
Deciding to take a chance I opened a toy shop where my cafe used to be and just ate the loss of a new business. The toy shop was opened in March of 2021 and was a success, that is, as far as people loving it and me having a lot of sales.
This was working out in the beginning. I was licensed with LEGO (which I hear is the most difficult license to obtain), after a long application and interview, and I found suppliers of Hasbro, Mattel, and all the other name-brand toys. Just as it was with my food and coffee, if I were going to do this, I wanted the quality to be the best.
As 2021 progressed, so did rising costs, shipping charges, gas, and inflation. All of my suppliers warned of higher toy costs, as well as higher shipping costs. By the time we hit December 2021, my 10-12% profit margin had dropped to 5%, or in some cases, I couldn't even break even and had to sell at a loss.
So, this is where I am today.
I decided to sell the antique mall, and sell off all my toy stock, and return to my first love, creating beautiful artwork. I love all mediums, writing, drawing, collage, sculptures, and since I am a Master Leather Smith, I will once more return to leatherwork.
I quit leatherwork because of an injury. I gave myself tennis elbow because I was working too hard. So I will have to be mindful of the leatherwork, and avoid long hours of hand-stitching or manually punching thousands of holes.
I will be adding pages to my personal website, and links to my shop for purchasing my artwork. It is my hope that I can make this transition quickly and easily. The antique mall is currently up for sale, and there are two buyers trying to decide who wants it more.
I will be spending the rest of the day today writing letters to my renters and consignment vendors letting them know we need to start clearing out the 4,000 sq ft mall. I have a lot of work ahead of me. Once the sale is complete, and I have everything moved out I can start focussing on the next step in my journey, which is actually not a step forward, rather a return to the past and to my love of leather crafting and artistic endeavors.
I have approximately six novel outlines started as well, and I am looking forward to returning to writing.